As the region schedule draws closer, Statesboro is riding high and junior quarterback Reid Pennington has assumed command of the offense as the Blue Devils make another run at the playoffs.
A defensive starter and third-string quarterback last season, Pennington assumed the signal calling duties this year and has Statesboro sitting at a perfect 3-0 so far.
“I think that things have been going pretty good,” said Pennington. “We still have a lot of things to improve, but I’m pretty comfortable running the offense and I think we’re getting better every day.”
In Statesboro’s wishbone running attack, Pennington is not called upon to air it out much, but is still integral to the offense’s success. With a full stable of talented running backs at his disposal, Pennington has done a good job of distributing the ball.
He has also been able to make some running plays of his own. This season, the Blue Devils have incorporated more option plays into the game plan, shifting their two tailbacks to either side of the line in a flexbone formation and attacking the outside of defenses with tosses and sprint options.
Pennington has looked like a veteran on many of those plays as he has made good reads, executed clean pitches, and shown the willingness and toughness to lower his shoulder and fight through linebackers for tough yardage.
Although he won’t top the passing stat columns, Pennington has made all of the big throws when called upon.
Pennington converted a big 3rd-and-13 during the Devils’ game-winning drive against Washington County in Week 2. Last week, with Statesboro trailing 7-3 at Tattnall County and facing 3rd down with just 10 seconds and no timeouts remaining in the first half, the SHS coaching staff kept the offense on the field and Pennington came through with a touchdown strike to Tavist Wilson that started a run of 21 straight Blue Devil points.
“I think that we have confidence in the passing game,” said Pennington. “We like to run the ball, but we know that we’ll eventually have to pass it too. It’s something that we work on every day to improve so that we can do it whenever we need to.”
As important as he is to the offense, Pennington still contributes on the other side of the ball.
In 2009, he started at safety and made numerous touchdown-saving tackles. In this season’s opening week, Pennington helped to seal Statesboro’s win over defending region champion Brunswick with a fourth-quarter interception in the SHS end zone.
“If I can help the team by playing defense and offense, then I’m excited to do it,” said Pennington. “I’m not really thinking about getting hurt on defense or what it would mean for the offense. I’m just trying to do my job on every play.”
Pennington is dead set on leading the Blue Devils back to the postseason, but this season the playoff picture is a little different for Statesboro than in previous years.
Region 2-AAAA is split into sub-regions, with the top three teams in each sub-region advancing to a play-in game in the final week of the regular season that will decide which teams advance to the GHSA state playoffs.
Sub-region wins will be vital — the top finishers in each sub-region are guaranteed a state playoff spot — but Pennington and the Devils aren’t looking too far ahead.
“We know that we’ve got a lot of big games coming up,” said Pennington. “But we can only play one at a time. Liberty County is a good team, so we’ve just got to go about our business and try to get another win this week.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.